The other day at my office I had a client turn to their partner and say with tears in their eyes.. ‘I do not know where I stand with you..’ So often I hear troubled partners tell each other: ‘are you there for me’, ‘will you be there when I need you’, ‘will you have my back’, ‘can I rely on you’, ‘can I depend on you’…?
I did not put a question-mark after those statements, as they are not questions — they are CALLS and cries for connection. They are ways we try to bring our partners closer to us, tell them we need them, so we can feel safe and secure in the relationship and therefore in the world.
In more secure couples, even when conflicts occur and those questions surface, they are able to regulate the stress of the fight or the conflict or even the trauma and be able to find their way back to a ‘yes’ to all those questions.
But in more stressed and emotionally distant partners, the way back to a safe connection after an intense and stressful fight may take awhile or meander into some confusing, distant and hurtful times. In those couples the attachment is rocky and insecure. They are anxious and experience avoidance. They may not feel that safe attachment and connection and the answers to those questions hang in the air like ice crystals on a stormy day.
Why is that safe and secure attachment is so important to our relationship?
As Dr. Sue Johnson, the founder of EFT (Emotional Focused Therapy which is based on attachment theory) tells us, this is because “that’s just the way we are made. We need someone to pay real attention, to hold us tight, to come very close sometimes and respond to us in an emotional way that moves us, connects with us. Nothing compares with that. Connection is sweet, holding is deeply calming and satisfying.”
But is attachment and bonding that important? What about love and sexuality and care-taking?
“Attachment is the bottom line, the scaffold on which these other elements are built. The interconnections are obvious. Sexuality is best when there is safe connection. The risk that is essential to eroticism does not come from constant superficial novelty, but from the ability to stay open to your partner in the moment.” (SJ)
I feel that in the couples I see each day in my office – the plea in their eyes and their heart and the ‘call’ to their partner to create safe space where secure attachment can be built is ever so potent and important. Change in behavior and patterns can happen when we feel connected and securely attached. That is where and when we can be vulnerable, open and intimate.
Intimacy is not sex, intimacy is the ability to allow someone in, to deeply trust that they are there for us, that it is safe to be open and naked and truthful. When we feel safe to let that person in, when we put down walls and guards of defense and protection, then bonding, weather through sex, cuddle, conversation or any other behavior can be so much more fulfilling..
Happy Spring to all of YOU.. though it is worrisome to be preparing for a long summer with little water and the consequences of another drought year, it is hard not to delight in this amazing spring that has been bestowed on us..
If you feel called to participate in my upcoming Hold Me Tight Workshop, learn more and/or register right here on my website.